Havant Thicket: Portsmouth Water reservoir that will replace 30 acres of ancient woodland is approved

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a new reservoir in Havant that will see around 30 acres of ‘irreplaceable’ ancient woodland lost have been given the go ahead.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 4:55 am

Borough councillors approved proposals from Portsmouth Water for the site on Havant Thicket that will provide water to the south east, despite impassioned pleas from residents during a meeting last night (June 3).

They ultimately ruled the need to conserve water in the future outweighed any concerns for loss of trees that have been there for hundreds of years.

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Areas of Havant Thicket which could be impacted by the reservoir plans. Picture: Emily Turner

The reservoir will allow a transfer of up to 21 million litres a day to be made to Southern Water from other sources further west in Hampshire.

And as part of plans a green leisure hub, with a visitor centre, accessible facilities for community and education activities and a three-mile network of paths for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders will be provided.

As reported, environmental campaigners said the development would ‘devastate’ the existing woodland and wildlife.

In a deputation given at the meeting Rebecca Harvey said: ‘Ancient woodland, with its complex ecosystems, once gone, is truly gone and cannot be replaced! Once chopped down, stored carbon is released, and those wide branches no longer filter our air for us. Please think deeply about your decision.’

From left: Stop the Chop! campaigners Beck Harvey, Shelley Saunders, Dave Childs, Dielle Hannah, and Helen Young. Picture: Emily Turner

Julie Stevenson added: ‘The replanting of saplings is of little compensation and the site will take decades to recover from the devastation caused.’

In response, Bob Taylor, the chief executive officer of Portsmouth Water, said the loss of trees was ‘regrettable’ but the company would seek to create and enhance 240 hectares of woodland in the area.

‘Provision of a reliable water source is fundamental to everything we do everyday,’ he said.

‘We all turn our taps on every day and we expect clean, fresh water whenever we need it.

Campaigners say that these areas of ancient woodland would be lost if plans go ahead. Picture: Emily Turner

‘We must act now to secure water for the future.

‘Havant Thicket Reservoir is an environmentally-led scheme with a role to plan in the extraction and securing of reliable water sources in the future. It will safeguard two Hampshire chalk streams by allowing less water to be taken from them.

‘We will continue to involve the community to develop the site.’

In their debate Councillor Diana Patrick said she was ‘torn’ on the decision.

She said: ‘How many trees, how many more trees, how many more areas of ancient woodland are we going to destroy? How many more habitats?

‘Our trees are irreplaceable.’

But Cllr Gary Hughes said: ‘There is no doubt climate change is high on the agenda.

‘Therefore I believe if there is a strategy to supply water in a strategic way that benefits the wider population I would agree this long-planned, long-considered project should be allowed to go ahead.’

Four councillors voted in favour of the plans, with one - Cllr Patrick - abstaining.

The plans will also be considered by East Hampshire District Council on Wednesday, June 9, which is responsible for part of the area that would be affected.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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